“If you eat caviar every day, it’s very difficult to return to sausages”. This was Wenger’s famous reaction to fans agitation after a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough in 1998. During that epoch, the benchmark for success was finishing above Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team, anything contrary was considered substandard by Arsenal fans. A move to Emirates Stadium while not forgetting an influx of foreign moolah into the Premier League weakened the club financially and competitively – Chelsea and Man City had come to the trophy party.
Arsenal had migrated from title contenders to title pretenders, thus finishing 4th was now considered a trophy. After all, there was a reward of playing in the Europe’s elite competition (The Champions League). The emergence of north rivals Tottenham and ever-present Liverpool FC meant the competition for places in the league had shifted from a traditional top 4 to its current state of top 6 title hopefuls. An enviable but somewhat fruitless record of being in the champions league for 19 consecutive years finally came to an abrupt end in 2017, when Arsenal finished outside the top 4 for the 1st time under former manager Arsene Wenger and had to settle for the lower echelons of European football in the Europa League. Two seasons have passed and the struggle to break into the top 4 still lingers.
With Emery at the helm of affairs, Arsenal seem to have made strides with regards to getting back into the top 4. In fact after 29 games this season the team is better off compared to the previous year’s league campaign (59 pts as compared to 50 pts). This is the business end of the season and games come in thick and fast. With 9 games left to play in the EPL and the distraction of the Europa League, the top 2 places look destined for Klopp and Guardiola’s men.
Spurs seem to have lost their way with back-to-back losses and a draw. Sarri’s Chelsea keep blowing hot and cold while Man United look promising under Solskjaer. There is an aura of optimism that the 3rd and 4th spots are there for the taking. Tension between Mesut Ozil and Unai Emery seems to have cooled. The team hasn’t lost a game in the league since an away loss to Man City at the beginning of February. Apart from the stern test of facing Manchester United, home games against Newcastle, Watford, Crystal Palace and Brighton looks like easy wins on paper. Tricky ties at Wolves, Watford and Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester have the potential of denting the team’s top 4 ambitions.
While looking within to deal with issues, it is always imperative and prudent to cast an eye on your rivals. Chelsea have a London derby to negotiate with West Ham and crunch away games to title hopefuls Liverpool and top 4 challengers Man United. Tottenham, however, have to deal with the might of Man City, the desperation of Liverpool and niggling derbies to West Ham and Crystal Palace. Man Utd, on the other hand, have to deal with the threat of their noisy neighbours Man City and better the ambitions of rivals Arsenal and Chelsea. AmazingBet believes that the top 4 race could go down to the wire. Arsenal and Chelsea would fancy a crack at winning the Europa League as a gateway into the Champions League.
For Arsenal fans and Emery, the allure for caviar remains the same, albeit this time the type of caviar has changed from that of a title contender to a top 4 hopeful.